Your Currency for Change: How to Focus Environmental Giving

June 8, 2017 by  
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By Kate Williams, CEO of 1% for the Planet Currency is something we normally think of in narrow terms: the bills or coins we fish out of wallets and pockets to pay for our morning cuppa. But we can also think of it in broader terms: the influence…

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Your Currency for Change: How to Focus Environmental Giving

Glowing see-through garden house lets plants soak up the sun

May 31, 2017 by  
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Sometimes less really is more. This beautiful glowing home by H.a Architects was inspired by just one thing – lush greenery. Located in Ho Chi Minh City , the Less Home is clad in perforated white metal that lets in optimal natural light for the abundant vegetation that weaves throughout the interior. The home’s two-story tower design had to be strategic to make the most out of the small plot of land where the building stands. The compact space, which currently houses a family of seven, led the architects to create a flexible interior layout. Composed of various moveable partition s, the system allows the family to customize different layouts throughout the lifetime of the home. Related: Renovated Vietnamese home ‘sewn’ together with intricate steel threads On the interior, the design is minimalist in terms of furniture and decoration, instead using lush vegetation as the foremost design feature. Inspired by the surrounding tropical environment, the designers wanted to pull the exterior inside as much as possible. As a result, various trees and garden pockets are distributed throughout the home, creating a healthy, vibrant greenhouse feel. The home’s perforated white cladding helps feed the vegetation, which in return, provides clean breathing environment for the family, something especially important in a city known for its urban pollution . Via Archdaily Photography by Quang Dam  

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Glowing see-through garden house lets plants soak up the sun

Solar-powered Villa Schoorl blends into Hollands polder landscape

May 31, 2017 by  
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Natural materials and sustainable principles led the design of Villa Schoorl, a contemporary home nestled in the green polders near the North Holland dunes. Surrounded by mills and farmhouses, the contemporary villa references the local rural vernacular with its vertical timber cladding but distinguishes itself using an eyecatching sawtooth roof. Designed by Paul de Ruiter Architects , the energy-efficient dwelling is predominately powered by rooftop solar panels. The Villa Schoorl was mostly built with natural materials to blend the building into the landscape as much as possible. “It was essential to design a villa which in its appearance and its materials is in sync with this context,” said the firm, which clad the home in untreated timber to match the nearby forests. The majority of the villa is tucked underground to further minimize its visual effect on the landscape. Despite its partially subterranean design, Villa Schoorl is flooded with natural light thanks to floor-to-ceiling glazing, skylights, and a central glass atrium . Bedrooms, a hobby room, yoga room, and bathroom are located underground. An open-plan living area, dining room, and kitchen are placed aboveground and surrounded by sliding glass doors that can be shielded with vertical folding elements for privacy and solar shading. Homeowners also have access to a covered terrace on the south end. Related: Solar-powered luxury villa is an energy-neutral gem set in a Dutch dune landscape Rooftop solar panels are mounted on the southernmost part of the sloped roof and the renewable energy harnessed provide a major part of the home’s energy supply. A wood stove connected to central heating helps to heat the home efficiently in winter. + Paul de Ruiter Architects Images by Tim Van de Velde

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Solar-powered Villa Schoorl blends into Hollands polder landscape

Trump budget proposes 31% cut to EPA funding

May 24, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump is still trying to take a swing at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The White House’s most recent budget proposal, released yesterday, would cut money for environmental cleanup, clean air , and water programs. And thousands of people could lose their jobs as the number of full-time employees drops from 15,416 to 11,611 . The recent Trump budget proposal lowers EPA funding to $5.65 billion. If that still sounds like a hefty sum, consider what the EPA won’t be able to do with this slashed budget: restore areas like the Great Lakes and Puget Sound and run a lead risk-reduction program. They also won’t have as much money for climate change research, environmental justice efforts, or radon detection programs. The White House proposal also just about halves categorical grants which help states and local areas address water and air quality. Related: Trump saved a toxic pesticide – and then it poisoned a bunch of farmworkers EPA administrator Scott Pruitt stood behind Trump’s drastic cuts; the agency put out a statement praising the returned “focus to core statutory mission,” which we guess means dirty air and polluted water for all. Pruitt even decided to say Trump’s “budget respects the American taxpayer.” This praise comes even though the proposed budget would reduce funding for Pruitt’s Superfund cleanup program – which he’s listed as a priority – by almost one third. Toxic accidents or industrial activity have polluted these Superfund sites, many of which, according to The Guardian , are close to low-income or minority communities. National Association of Clean Air Agencies executive director S. William Becker said he was astounded the administration didn’t change much from their initial March budget proposal, even after bipartisan opposition from Congress. Lawmakers recently reached a deal for government funding through September that cuts the EPA’s budget by around one percent. In a statement on the recent proposal, Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook said, “This isn’t a budget – it’s a road map for the President, EPA Administrator Pruitt, and polluters to see that millions of Americans drink dirtier water, breathe more polluted air, and don’t have enough nutritious food to lead healthy lives.” Via The Washington Post Images via Wikimedia Commons and USEPA Environmental-Protection-Agency on Flickr

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Trump budget proposes 31% cut to EPA funding

New on-demand energy system generates and stores power in one device

May 24, 2017 by  
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Your entire home could be powered, heated , and cooled with one system in the near future – thanks to scientists at the University of Newcastle and Infratech Industries . They’ve designed a Chemical Looping Energy-on-Demand System (CLES) that eliminates the need for a battery to store energy , instead generating and storing power in just one device. The university described the CLES as a Swiss army knife for energy . The CLES could totally change how we power our homes and businesses. The device can either generate electricity with natural gas , or store electricity from the grid or renewables to be utilized later. It centers around a reduction-oxidation (redox) reaction in which particles oxidize and create steam that powers an electricity-generating turbine. When the particles reduce they release oxygen. Related: These mini spherical reactors could help scale fusion energy by 2030 The University of Newcastle says it can perform its functions – climate control and energy generation – with a fraction of the resources required by other systems. The system can also produce oxygen or hydrogen, which could be used or sold. The CLES is based on a Chemical Looping Air Separation invention from Behdad Moghtaderi, a professor at the university, and Infratech, which has been involved since the early stages of the project, aims to commercialize the technology. Their industrial-scale reference plant in Australia could power a retirement village or hospital. The reference plant will go through testing before it’s relocated to be used commercially. From there the team hopes to scale down the system to around the size of a refrigerator for use in houses. This should be available in around 18 months according to the University of Newcastle. A home system might generate 24 kilowatt-hours of power each day, and the scientists told New Atlas the system – which could cost around $4,500 for homeowners – would pay for itself in a year and a half. Via New Atlas and the University of Newcastle Images via screenshot and the University of Newcastle

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New on-demand energy system generates and stores power in one device

Dwell on Design 2017: The West Coast’s largest design event is coming to Los Angeles!

May 24, 2017 by  
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Dwell on Design , the West Coast’s largest design event, is back and better than ever for 2017. The highly-anticipated three-day design event to be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center June 23 – 25 will feature 300 exhibitors, continuing education opportunities and onstage programming from design’s foremost leaders. Visitors will be able to tour homes curated by the talented editors at Dwell and attend conversations hosted by notable architect Sir David Adjaye , designer-to-the-stars Martyn Lawrence Bullard and founder of DwellStudio, Christiane Lemieux. If you don’t want to miss this treasure trove of design-goodness, register here to reserve your spot and you can use the code INHABITAT to get a $5 discount. For it’s 12th year, Dwell on Design will welcome 300 new and returning exhibitors in 100,000 square feet of space. In order to foster a shared experience, all sessions and featured panels will be hosted on the main stage, with more intimate fire-side chats and panels taking place throughout the fair. These conversations will focus on five themes: Technology/Smart Home, Health & Wellness/Aging, Urban Space/Densification, Resiliency, and Business of Design. Every year, the home tours are a real highlight of the show. This year, attendees will be treated to yet another inspiring series of Dwell-worthy home designs, including the minimalist Drexel home, cleverly remodeled Kuehl House and the mnmMOD-constructed Sherbourne Residence. Returning pavilions will include the ever-popular prefabricated Cocoon9 and Method Homes . Other exhibitors will include Benjamin Moore, Ergotron, Build.com, Hansgrohe, Humboldt Redwoods, Koble & Koble, Marvin Windows, Smith & Fong, and Stokke. The fair will also feature the AIA LA Photography awards, book signings by Sir David Adjaye, Martyn Lawrence Bullard, and more, Meet the Architects Night, and a silent auction. Architect Sir David Adjaye of Adjaye Associates will be the keynote speaker on Friday, June 23. He’s known for his ground-breaking use of materials and has created such noteworthy designs as the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo, the Moscow School of Management, and the stunning, recently-opened Smithsonian Institute National Museum of African American History and Culture . Then there’s Martyn Lawrence Bullard, star of Million Dollar Decorators and designer to Hollywood’s A-list, who has received international acclaim for his impressive mastery of style, and Christiane Lemieux, an acclaimed designer who founded DwellStudio  and Cloth & Company, as well as acting as creative director of Wayfair. Ongoing education partners include such respected names as the American Society of Interior Designers , U.S. Green Building Council , Sustainable Furnishings Council , and the National Kitchen and Bath Association . Attendees will be able to expand their knowledge on emergent topics, including the latest color trends, NetZero building practices, Passive Design principles, psychological effects of color use, sustainable landscapes, modern prefabricated design, living in small spaces, and sustainable housing. Year after year, Dwell on Design showcases groundbreaking and life-changing designs that end up transforming the industry. We can’t wait to see what is turning heads this year, but until then, you can check out all of the best Dwell on Design coverage from past years here . And don’t forget to nab your tickets for this year’s fair before they’re all gone,

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Dwell on Design 2017: The West Coast’s largest design event is coming to Los Angeles!

7 biggest threats to the environment – why we still need Earth Day

April 18, 2017 by  
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This Saturday is Earth Day , and while it’s a time to celebrate our planet, it’s also a prime opportunity to take a closer look at the serious environmental issues we’re facing and the solutions that need to be put in place to alleviate them. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to ignore the damage we’ve done to the environment, especially when the effects have been hitting so close to home . If you want to make this Earth Day an opportunity to educate yourself about the problems, read on as we break down the 7 biggest environmental threats facing our society right now and how we might be able to solve them before it’s too late. Climate Change Climate change is first and foremost an issue because people can’t even agree on whether or not it’s an issue in the first place. Before we even get into the solutions, we all (regardless of political party) need to come to the realization that yes, climate change is real and yes, it is affecting us in ways that we can see and feel.  If you still believe that the freakish weather and heat waves we’ve been experiencing have nothing to do with climate change, you might want to ask your neighbor what he or she thinks because the majority of Americans say they believe global warming is causing these incidents . You might have noticed that the weather’s been hotter than usual , or you might have noticed a drought in your area or conversely, unusual storms. Furthermore, even small temperature changes are causing crops to die, decreasing the amount of food available. On top of all that, higher temps are causing the polar icecaps to melt, flooding certain areas and leading to an imbalance for wildlife. So we know the threat is real, but what can we do to prevent climate change from being exacerbated even more? Some small steps you can take in your own life are to use less electricity by turning off your lights when you don’t need them, driving less, switching to LED bulbs and eating less meat . On a more global scale, leaders have come to an agreement on how to curb the harmful greenhouse gases each nation emits into the atmosphere, and steps are being taken to plant more forests (which act as natural carbon sinks). Every bit helps, but in order for us to reverse the current course the Earth is on, the United States needs to commit to the Paris Agreement  and, along with the rest of the world, work towards a greener planet. Deforestation We mentioned planting more forests above, and sadly at a time when we need more forests, trees are being uprooted at an alarming rate.  Deforestation is a rapidly-growing problem in areas like Africa, Central and South America. Not only does this mean less trees, less cleansing oxygen, and the displacement of the wildlife, deforestation means a dangerous decrease in a natural fighter of global warming – the #1 threat to our Earth right now. Removing trees also leads to much drier climates, as trees extract groundwater to release into the air. Our tropical rainforests, which are crucial to stabilizing the climate and to human survival, are being chopped down at a breakneck pace – one and a half acres of rainforest are lost every second . Humans have already chopped down about 50% of the rainforests that once existed on the planet and at the current rate of destruction, we will completely destroy the rainsforests in the next 40 years . If rainforests are so important, why are they being destroyed so carelessly? Short-sighted governments and multi-national logging companies only see the forests as a way to make money by selling timber – they don’t consider the long-term effects . Luckily, deforestation is an issue that we as individuals can combat. By using recycled paper, we can decrease the need to cut down as many trees and by buying goods made with FSC-certified wood, we can show retailers that we don’t want them to support brands that obtain lumber irresponsibly. Last but not least, why not plant a tree or even a hundred trees like this man did . Pollution Pollution comes in many forms and no matter where you live, you’ve probably seen some form of it. From litter on NYC city streets to the smog that lingers over LA to the plastic trash that floats in the  Great Pacific Garbage Patch , the visible signs of pollution are more than evident. The main reason for why pollution has gotten so out of control is that our desire for more “stuff”  has led to our old stuff being thrown away at an alarming and unnecessary rate. For more information on this, watch Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff . This need for manufactured items also leads to the air and water pollution emitted from factories, which in many countries are highly unregulated. Looking at the bigger picture, government oversight and sloppy industrial practices on the part of big companies has also exacerbated our pollution problem. The first thing we can all do to reduce the amount of pollution in our streets, air and water is to make a mental change. Before buying a new product, ask yourself if you really need it or if you might be able to purchase it secondhand. It could make a big difference in the amount of trash we see in our landfills. Secondly, if you don’t already  recycle , get into the habit. If everyone adopted these easy principles, the world would be in a much better place. Loss of Biodiversity Each species has a role in our planet, and when one dies out, it can have catastrophic effects on the rest of us. We don’t want to get all “Butterfly Effect” on you but even a population dwindling can cause major problems for the human race. For example, with their role of pollination , the decline of the  bee population has a direct effect on both the environment and food production. Currently, many other animals are in danger of becoming extinct, either from being forced out of their habitats by man or by climate change. This particular problem is more difficult for individuals to combat but we can start by educating ourselves with the facts and donating to organizations like the World Wildlife Fund that facilitate the preservation of animals on the brink of extinction. This problem is also closely linked to deforestation and unchecked habitat destruction so by fighting those two issues, we can also slow down loss of biodiversity. Melting Polar Ice-Caps and Rising Sea Levels Climate change (are you seeing a trend here?) also contributes to another dangerous problem – melting polar ice-caps, which in turn causes rising sea levels. According to the NRCD , average temperatures in the Arctic region are rising twice as fast they are elsewhere and the ice is melting and rupturing. NASA satellite images reveal that the area of our permanent ice cover is shrinking at a rate of 9% every decade. At that rate, the Arctic could be totally ice-free in the summer season within decades. And if all of that ice melted, where would it go? You guessed it – our oceans. You might think that rising tides are only a problem for people in a few isolated areas, but major cities like NY and London could be underwater soon if we don’t do something soon. Manhattan alone has already dreamt up ways to deal with the potential rising tides over the next few years, but coming up with solutions after the fact is not enough. In order to reverse the melting of polar icecaps, we have to start at the root of the problem. See our section above on climate change to learn what you can do personally to keep global warming from continuing on its deadly course. Oceanic Dead Zones Along the coasts of heavily populated communities, scientists have found more and more dead zones – areas where depleted oxygen levels cannot support marine life. 146 dead zones were found in the world’s oceans, caused by high levels of chemicals in the waters. North America’s Gulf Coast has a high concentration of dead zones, which causes fish to become unable to reproduce. You might think that if you live on land, you won’t be affected by oceanic dead zones but if you eat seafood, seaweed, or care about air quality, you won’t want to ignore this issue. The good news is that dead zones can be reversed, though it is difficult. The  Black Sea dead zone disappeared in 1991 and 2001 due to the discontinued use of fertilizers. To find out more about how you can help with dead zone cleanups, visit Oceana.org . Explosive Population Growth It’s usually true that the more the merrier, but not when the human population is growing to a point that our society and systems can’t handle. Last year, the world population hit a whopping 7 billion , and while we welcome the newcomers with open arms, we also want to make sure that we don’t continue to put a strain on our water, food, well-being, space and sanity (yes, we’re talking about you, Tokyo subway system ). If everyone were more conscious of the fact that our limited resources need to be shared (how many times have you grabbed a fistful of paper napkins when you only needed one?), we could make living together, even with such a large amount of people) a lot more pleasant. Another example is our world food supply. Statistics show that we have enough food to feed everyone on the planet but we end up wasting so much (according to the  National Resources Defense Council , Americans waste a whopping 30 to 50% of all food produced) that others go without. While we might not be able to stop the population from growing, we can educate the people who currently live here and the new ones that are being born to make smarter choices and consume more responsibly. Images from Wikimedia Commons, Shutterstock, © James Cridland , @ Kevin Crejci , and @ No Minds Vision    

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7 biggest threats to the environment – why we still need Earth Day

Why You Should Ditch Balloons if You Love the Environment

April 4, 2017 by  
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After writing an article on traditions that are terrible for the environment, I received overwhelming feedback that balloon releases should have been included on the list. Never one to disappoint, I decided to do some research on the topic and what…

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Why You Should Ditch Balloons if You Love the Environment

Trump properties rank among worst polluters in NYC

April 3, 2017 by  
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Nobody expected President Donald Trump , a man who once declared climate change a “hoax” by the Chinese government, to be a champion of the environment. Indeed, with proposed budget cuts to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a plan to reverse his predecessor’s pro-planet policies, the opposite  has been true. So it should come as a surprise to no one that properties owned by Trump, as well as his consigliere son-in-law Jared Kusher , rate among the least energy-efficient in New York City, according to a new report by ALIGN , a coalition of labor and community organizations with an environmental bent. Trump International Hotel on Columbus Circle and Trump SoHo, the analysis found, use more energy than 70 to 79 percent of large hotels in the city, respectively. Even more egregious, Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue uses more energy than 93 percent of the city’s largest residential complexes. The Mayfair, a hotel-to-condo conversion owned by the Trumps, uses more energy than 98 percent of comparable multifamily buildings. The Kushner family–owned tower at 666 Fifth Avenue , living up to its numerically ominous address, uses more energy than 85 percent of large office buildings, the study noted. Related: Jared Kushner’s 666 tower by Zaha Hadid gets reimagined as the Eye of Sauron “Those folks are the biggest polluters of our city—we need to take them on and actually make sure that they reduce their emissions,” Maritza Silva-Farrell, executive director of ALIGN, told the Daily News . The bulk of the city’s carbon footprint stems from heating, cooling, and powering its soaring skyscrapers. While New York City has voluntary programs designed to reduce its emissions, Silva-Farrell thinks it’s time to administer mandatory rules. “We think that it is really important to require these kinds of owners to reduce their emissions and create clean air for our communities,” she said. “We believe that’s the only way they will do it.” Via the Daily News Photos by jcwillia1 and Michael Vadon

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Coca-Cola beverages are poisonous, Nigerian judge rules

April 3, 2017 by  
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Coca-Cola drinks clearly aren’t healthy – but one Nigerian judge recently ruled them poisonous. The lawsuit over Coca-Cola beverages made in a Nigerian factory said the sugary drinks had levels of sunset yellow food dye and benzoic acid, both carcinogens , that were too high and could be harmful when combined with vitamin C. Coca-Cola claims there’s no scientific basis for the ruling. European authorities flagged Coca-Cola products including Fanta Orange, Fanta Lemon, Fanta Pineapple, Sprite, Coca-Cola, and soda water for the two carcinogens, according to the lawsuit filed by businessman Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo against the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) and the National Agency For Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC). He says he was unable to sell Fanta and Sprite purchased from NBC due to the findings. Related: Artist boils down sugary drinks into sickly suckers that highlight the dangers of junk food Judge Adedayo Oyebanji said NBC must put written warnings on Sprite and Fanta bottles. The judge also said NAFDAC did not properly warn consumers of the perils of mixing vitamin C with benzoic acid and sunset yellow, and awarded them costs of two million Naira, or around $6,350. Coca-Cola, unsurprisingly, didn’t agree with the ruling. They told MUNCHIES, “Recent claims that The Coca-Cola Company’s Fanta and Sprite beverages are unfit for consumption when combined with vitamin C are inaccurate and unsupported by science . All our products are safe and strictly adhere to regulations in the countries where they are sold while complying with our Company’s stringent global safety and quality standards.” They mentioned a Medium post by Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health addressing the issue. The post said Coca-Cola products made in Nigeria are safe to consume, and mentioned benzoic acid acts as a preservative to avoid growth of microorganisms which can thrive in the Nigerian climate. Via MUNCHIES Images via Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay

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Coca-Cola beverages are poisonous, Nigerian judge rules

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